India in South Africa 2013-14 November 25, 2013

Zak's back without excess baggage

Discarded and unfit, Zaheer Khan sighted an unceremonious end to his career. Then he decided to do something about it
46

Zaheer Khan training with Tim Exeter

The change is striking. If you have not seen Zaheer Khan for a while and spot him in person, or on television, you might mistake him for an army cadet. Like a fresher at a defence academy, he is lean, lithe and sports a crew cut. Not the Zaheer with fat around the hips, whom Michael Holding called unfit after a cursory glance from a distance on the first morning of India's Test series in England in 2011.

Hips don't lie. Today Zaheer's are slimmer and more flexible as he turns to deliver the ball. Although the run-up is the same, he is now capable of accelerating without breaking sweat. The biggest change in Zaheer, who has been selected for India's Test series in South Africa, is that he doesn't have to worry about breaking down.

Before his return against West Indies A in October, Zaheer had played no first-class cricket in 2013. He pulled a hamstring in a Ranji Trophy match against Gujarat in the last week of 2012. During the IPL, he achieved tournament-best figures of 4 for 17 in a victory against Chennai Super Kings, but he spent more time in the Royal Challengers Bangalore dugout than on the field.

After numerous hours trying to rehabilitate at the frugally equipped National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bangalore over the last couple of years, Zaheer began to get frustrated. His last Test for India had been against England in December 2012, and he desperately wanted to impose himself on batsmen again.

Sometime in June this year, Ashish Kaushik, one of the trainers at the NCA, told Zaheer and Yuvraj Singh - who was also keen to get specialist attention on the fitness front - about Tim Exeter, an athletic and performance coach, who runs a centre in the small picturesque town of Brive-La-Gaillarde, between Bordeaux and Lyon in southern France. The place suited the pair's desire to train in an environment where they could remain anonymous.

This was the first time Exeter was working with cricketers. To him, though, the two were just athletes. "I could tell they were not as lean as they needed to be," Exeter says. "Having not worked with the guys before, I was not familiar about where they should be. But one of Zak's major goals was to get his body fat levels down and get stronger."

Originally from Scotland, Exeter, who describes himself as an athletic performance coach, moved to France five years ago along with his wife Helen and four children. He played rugby for Scotland at representative level, and once for the national team, before he broke his neck and moved on to coaching. He came to France with a couple of England rugby players - 2003 World Cup winners both - who were, like him, playing for Northampton at the time. Exeter had spent close to seven years with the club but decided to move because he was not happy with the inconsistencies in the coaching system.

"I specialise in improving performance and reducing injury risks," Exeter says. "Making athletes more robust so they don't pick up silly injuries, or help them come back from injuries better. The areas of specialty, particularly, are speed and agility, and movement efficiency. It is not about making them fast in a straight line. It is about being able to change in all directions. It is three-dimensional.

"If your movement is more efficient, you will use less energy, but you will also be more consistent, and that also allows you to generate more."

India might not have had a more skilled fast bowler, but niggles, recurring injures and inconsistent fitness habits were threatening to make Zaheer, who turned 35 this October, obsolete. He knew his chances in ODI cricket were slim, with the selectors set on the World Cup in 2015. The only way back was through Test cricket, which couldn't have been easy given its fitness demands. Her needed to make a decision about where he wanted to go.

****

The first thing Exeter worked out was a strict diet, and Zaheer bought into it without complaints. A combination of the right food and rigorous training became the routine during the six weeks he spent in France.

"Where a lot of people go wrong is, they eat too much bread and pasta and a whole lot of stuff like that," Exeter says. "But if you are not in an endurance sport like cycling or distance running, it is not good to have such food. There has been a fallacy that pasta is king, and you have got to smash carbohydrates down, but it can actually blow you up. So he reduced that a lot, and switched to more protein, like fish, and vegetables along with moderate amounts of fruit to help improve his body composition."

"Zak said that he is not the fastest bowler in the world. That is not his intention. What he wants to be able to do is bowl at a good pace, do it consistently, and do it all day"
Tim Exeter, athletic and performance coach

The message was simple: if your intake of calories is more than what you expend, then you are going to put on weight. An advantage for Exeter was Zaheer knew his body well. "He is like any good professional athlete I have worked with," Exeter says. "I know what will work, but you always need the coach-athlete relationship to be working to tweak things. In that respect Zak is brilliant. He does know his body. He also knows what he wants. So we were able to develop some interesting stuff specific to him and it worked."

Other than the weight control, Exeter worked extensively on Zaheer's running technique, which increased his efficiency as a bowler and made him quicker on the field while spending less energy. "Zak said that he is not the fastest bowler in the world," Exeter says. "That is not his intention. What he wants to be able to do is bowl at a good pace, do it consistently, and do it all day. If he has bowled 120 balls a day, he wants to know that he can bowl the last one nearly as hard and fast as the first one."

According to Exeter, Zaheer has a highly demanding bowling action with a huge impact on his landing foot. "There is a massive force coming down on the leg he plants down before he delivers," he says. "He has got to have the ability to decelerate, which has mainly to do with his right leg, which is the last part of his bowling action. As he jumps up in the last part of his bowling action, he comes down very hard on his right leg because he uses that as a pivot to generate speed on the ball. That was an area we focused a lot on. That is why you start with the core, the hip area."

Apart from putting the players through a strenuous outdoor training regime, which started at six in the morning on weekdays and focused more on movements and running technique, Exeter asked Zaheer to make waves with heavy ropes - the toughest exercise - in the gym. He also had him lift dead weights while squatting on the ground, and perform vertical jumps. The physical changes started to become visible after about a month. By then Zaheer had lost 5kg, and was more flexible in his movements.

"It [the weight loss] just allows him to do better, and more often, and become consistent," Exeter says. "We worked on flexibility through his hip region, mobility of his hips, which would transfer positively into his bowling and would take a load off his lower back as well. So getting him stronger through the central part of his body would not only protect his back but also allow him to produce more powerful rotations."

When Zaheer checked in, he had failed in the deadlift from the floor. "But by the end he had started to lift some reasonable weight - around 115kg - which he could not do at the start because he had not got the strength in the core and back," Exeter says. "In that lift he is not only working his legs, he is working his glute, his hamstrings, his upper body, his core, his back, his forearms."

****

Ajit Agarkar, Zaheer's former team-mate and a good friend, could not believe the physical change. He had met Zaheer in London before he left for France. "He looked determined," Agarkar remembers. "He told me he was going to push himself to achieve the required fitness." Injuries and constant niggles pushed Agarkar into retirement this October, so he understood what Zaheer was going through. "It is about bowling with that extra weight for 20-25 overs every day," he says. "And that takes its toll."

When Zaheer returned from France, Agarkar was amazed at the striking difference. "We could not believe how lean he had become," he says.

According to Sudhir Naik, Zaheer's long-time coach, his biggest challenge before he trained with Exeter was to last a whole Test. "It was mental, where he would worry how long he could last," Naik says. "He was always confident as a bowler. He was only worried about fitness. But so far, in the last two months, he has just built on the momentum. Especially in the three Ranji Trophy matches he has played, he has bowled extremely well, with full speed, including long eight-to-nine-over spells at a stretch."

Even though the selectors had ignored him for the home series against West Indies earlier this month, Zaheer's aim was to get match-fit. Along the way he bowled influential spells that helped Mumbai snatch crucial points. Sulakshan Kulkarni, Mumbai's coach, agrees with Naik. "In the five-odd matches he has played recently, he has bowled nearly 200 overs [147.3 in five matches] and not once did he come back to the dressing room [for a comfort break or treatment]," Kulkarni says. "You never needed to bother about his bowling. But now he looks the fittest cricketer in the team. So mentally, skill-wise, he was on top."

How can we be sure that Zaheer, who has had an injury-prone body, will last the distance, enough to take him over the last bend of his career? Training smart and focusing on the pre-season training are the key areas, Exeter says. "He told me he has played for 13 years solid. When you are younger, you can get away with murder, but as you get older it is wise to step back and have a preparation period through pre-season training. When you hit a certain age, you only need one injury, and then it just starts a chain of events, but you can definitely get it back when you are more robust. No question about that."

When Zaheer and Yuvraj arrived at Exeter's centre in the middle of a vibrant European summer, they had excess baggage. "They arrived with four to five jackets, thinking it was going to be cold," Exeter chuckles. While the summer took care of that, Exeter is satisfied he has played a part in getting rid of the excess body weight.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Rahul_78 on November 26, 2013, 7:05 GMT

    Zaheers skilled left armers, Shamis reverse swing, Bhuvis swing and Umesh's raw pace, looks like India finally has a decent pace attack to travel overseas. The yonug guns will definitely benefit from Zaheers experience. If Zak can play for couple of more years then it will be really beneficial for the other Indian fast bowlers. Taking wickets have never been a problem for Zaheer recently it has just been his fitness levels that has let him down. Lets hope he proves successful in his comeback and wins India some tests overseas.

  • on November 30, 2013, 10:01 GMT

    There was a time, just before the horror test series in England in 2011, when Zak was the most complete bowler in world cricket. Not the fastest but quick enough, he could land the ball on a one rupee coin anywhere on the pitch, seam upright, swing the new ball and reverse swing the old one, and make it sing with menace like an Akram or a Younis. Then, on a cool afternoon on the first day at Lords, after taking two wickets in two blistering spells earlier in the morning, Zak's complacency on the fitness front caught up with him when his hamstring blew. The great Khan limped off the field, carrying India's series hopes with him. He had let down legions of fans, but mostly he had let himself down. It is a shameful testament to the Indian cricket system that as late as two years ago you could play test cricket for India as a bowling spearhead and carry 10 kg of excess fat around your middle. So now here comes a chance at redemption. Graeme Smith's fears have come true, Zak is back!

  • TehsinKhan on November 29, 2013, 13:50 GMT

    Good to see Zak back in Indian squad! he has the heart of a fast bowler whether he has the speed or not is a separate issue. Under crunch conditions he can take wickets for his captain and is also a handy man down the order when long handle is necessary. much love from the other side of Border!

  • on November 28, 2013, 2:27 GMT

    wont be of much use if zak doesnt perform. he has to take wickets.thats for sure.

  • Alexk400 on November 27, 2013, 21:15 GMT

    If we can only make sehwag to go do fitness. :)

  • on November 27, 2013, 6:00 GMT

    You know what - all these articles which glorify the tales of fitness/comebacks etc will have no meaning unless Zaheer performs. Look at Yuvi - except for that one T20 game, he has looked out of depth. Yes Yuvi has looked trim and slim and fit, but the results on the field of play have been poor. Lets hope Zak gives a better account of himself

  • Naresh28 on November 26, 2013, 13:15 GMT

    @boltthaa - well said. The recent A-trip to SA should have put some of them in a better frame of mind. It wont be easy. The best part is the batsman have scored tons of runs on Indian pitches - this should give them confidence. Dhawan is more like Shewag - goes for his shots and maybe he should reign in and get to know the conditions. Vijay is a patient player and I suppose that is why has been selected. It will start with these two guys. Our bowlers might enjoy better helpful conditions. SA will be out to protect their number 1 status.

  • CricketMaan on November 26, 2013, 9:13 GMT

    Can we send Irfan Pathan, Varun Aaron to Exeter? I've heard Michael Holding say it 100 times, what bowlers need is running, running and running not some bloody gym work. The legend Kapil, Wasim were highly successful doing that in most part of thier career although in the later stages relied on thier experience than fitness.

  • icemankimi on November 26, 2013, 8:50 GMT

    Good article from Nagaraj. Its heartening to see ZAK put such an effort and commitment towards his game. I wish him all the best in SA. He has always been a good bowler and a good mentor to young bowlers in the team. Hope he doesn't get complacent like Yuvi is right now. Yuvraj may be in good shape but his effort is not upto the mark at all in the field. Wish a good series in SA for ZAK...

  • NP_NY on November 26, 2013, 8:48 GMT

    This is good news but didn't this happen a couple of times in his career before? Why do these Indian bowlers keep needing a kick in the back side, to get their act together again. He is 35. 'hope he realizes that if he loses it again, he won't get another chance.

  • Rahul_78 on November 26, 2013, 7:05 GMT

    Zaheers skilled left armers, Shamis reverse swing, Bhuvis swing and Umesh's raw pace, looks like India finally has a decent pace attack to travel overseas. The yonug guns will definitely benefit from Zaheers experience. If Zak can play for couple of more years then it will be really beneficial for the other Indian fast bowlers. Taking wickets have never been a problem for Zaheer recently it has just been his fitness levels that has let him down. Lets hope he proves successful in his comeback and wins India some tests overseas.

  • on November 30, 2013, 10:01 GMT

    There was a time, just before the horror test series in England in 2011, when Zak was the most complete bowler in world cricket. Not the fastest but quick enough, he could land the ball on a one rupee coin anywhere on the pitch, seam upright, swing the new ball and reverse swing the old one, and make it sing with menace like an Akram or a Younis. Then, on a cool afternoon on the first day at Lords, after taking two wickets in two blistering spells earlier in the morning, Zak's complacency on the fitness front caught up with him when his hamstring blew. The great Khan limped off the field, carrying India's series hopes with him. He had let down legions of fans, but mostly he had let himself down. It is a shameful testament to the Indian cricket system that as late as two years ago you could play test cricket for India as a bowling spearhead and carry 10 kg of excess fat around your middle. So now here comes a chance at redemption. Graeme Smith's fears have come true, Zak is back!

  • TehsinKhan on November 29, 2013, 13:50 GMT

    Good to see Zak back in Indian squad! he has the heart of a fast bowler whether he has the speed or not is a separate issue. Under crunch conditions he can take wickets for his captain and is also a handy man down the order when long handle is necessary. much love from the other side of Border!

  • on November 28, 2013, 2:27 GMT

    wont be of much use if zak doesnt perform. he has to take wickets.thats for sure.

  • Alexk400 on November 27, 2013, 21:15 GMT

    If we can only make sehwag to go do fitness. :)

  • on November 27, 2013, 6:00 GMT

    You know what - all these articles which glorify the tales of fitness/comebacks etc will have no meaning unless Zaheer performs. Look at Yuvi - except for that one T20 game, he has looked out of depth. Yes Yuvi has looked trim and slim and fit, but the results on the field of play have been poor. Lets hope Zak gives a better account of himself

  • Naresh28 on November 26, 2013, 13:15 GMT

    @boltthaa - well said. The recent A-trip to SA should have put some of them in a better frame of mind. It wont be easy. The best part is the batsman have scored tons of runs on Indian pitches - this should give them confidence. Dhawan is more like Shewag - goes for his shots and maybe he should reign in and get to know the conditions. Vijay is a patient player and I suppose that is why has been selected. It will start with these two guys. Our bowlers might enjoy better helpful conditions. SA will be out to protect their number 1 status.

  • CricketMaan on November 26, 2013, 9:13 GMT

    Can we send Irfan Pathan, Varun Aaron to Exeter? I've heard Michael Holding say it 100 times, what bowlers need is running, running and running not some bloody gym work. The legend Kapil, Wasim were highly successful doing that in most part of thier career although in the later stages relied on thier experience than fitness.

  • icemankimi on November 26, 2013, 8:50 GMT

    Good article from Nagaraj. Its heartening to see ZAK put such an effort and commitment towards his game. I wish him all the best in SA. He has always been a good bowler and a good mentor to young bowlers in the team. Hope he doesn't get complacent like Yuvi is right now. Yuvraj may be in good shape but his effort is not upto the mark at all in the field. Wish a good series in SA for ZAK...

  • NP_NY on November 26, 2013, 8:48 GMT

    This is good news but didn't this happen a couple of times in his career before? Why do these Indian bowlers keep needing a kick in the back side, to get their act together again. He is 35. 'hope he realizes that if he loses it again, he won't get another chance.

  • HarshaIn on November 26, 2013, 8:20 GMT

    Jose : Veeru is more of a hand & eye coordination fellow. I dont think a fitness regime would do him any good. He is lazy as hell and good that he is done with Indian cricket.

  • bolthaa on November 26, 2013, 5:58 GMT

    @Haridas Menon: Pragmatic or Pessimistic I dont know.. But you re un-realistic.. Our young guns are on top of the world. They need to know what it is to face steyn in SA and johnson in Aus. That will create humility within them. SRT was always a humble guy during his success and failure days. I cannot expect, dhavans and kohlis to be like SRT. But the bottom line is they should not fly before they see the entire world. I am personally happy that SRT is NOT going to SA. Because that will differentiate boys from men... and opportunity to convert from boys to men. I desparately want Kohli to play outswinging full deliveries. Rohit to get exposed to incoming deliveries. Dhawan to drive rising deliveries at 150 k which he prefers to play on the rise.. These are the minor challenges that different guys need to face. SRT is successful in SA and there is nothing for him to prove there. It is the young guns who have to prove. They need to know what it takes to be a SRT, Dravid or Laxman.

  • on November 26, 2013, 5:53 GMT

    @Biso: Remember Zaheer is not a power lifter or body builder. He is just a cricketer and I wonder how many cricketers do dead lift and concentrate on core muscles. All they do is squats and running. They concentrate more on leg strengthening, but not the core muscles.

  • ksriniasu on November 26, 2013, 5:13 GMT

    @Raj Sundararaman My point is, Zaheer (and other Indian "fast" bowlers) have been so poor in maintaining elite level fitness that injuries have become a common place in their career. Yes, Zaheer went from a pot-bellied wreck in England 2011 to a much fitter player in Australia (2011-2012). But that does not explain the lack of rudimentary fitness regimen that should be part and parcel of any sportsman. The fact that he could not even manage a dead lift is just a testimony to how far he has been from the requisite fitness requirements of the sport.

  • Biso on November 26, 2013, 4:36 GMT

    I am amazed to read that Zaheer could not manage dead lifts of higher than 100 Kgs. The dead lift he has managed at the end of his stint ( 115 Kgs) is in fact lower than a person of his height should be easily managing being a sportsman. Am not bragging, I got back to weight training after a gap of over 25 years and at 50yrs now could manage 130 Kgs ( my height 5 feet six). I have been a hockey player in my younger days. I seen many others like me who lift as much and some even more, yet retain enough flexibility. I am surprised about facts mentioned in the article. I bet there are many others in the team who are really not fit enough. The basic requirement before taking to any sporting activity is strength and fitness. You do not get fit by playing. That is a major myth. You might develop crippling injuries. You ,actually, need fitness to play any sport. It is only then you can enjoy and give that extra margin which any sport requires at the crunch time.

  • on November 26, 2013, 4:28 GMT

    Ksriniasu: It is not that Zaheer has waited for 13 years to commit to this sort of training. In the past he has committed himself to such strict regimen and has come back stronger. Remember his stint with Worcestershire which earned him a recall after a long time in the sidelines? Zaheer has shown the willingness to go back and work hard unlike Sehwag who appears to be plain lazy! it is just that every now and then Zaheer seems to relapse and lose his fitness. Part of the reason is his job too. Being a fast bowler he is more susceptible to injuries.

  • SamRoy on November 26, 2013, 2:52 GMT

    More than his fitness has he gained his sharpness? He was especially blunt in Australia and vs England at home. A venom-less Zaheer may be of infinite help to youngsters but if his bowling is found not to be troubling the batsman in the nets then the brave decision of not playing him needs to be taken. It might incite criticism for various quarters especially if India loses both tests badly. If one of the three pacers (Bhuvi, Umesh and Shami) gets injured even an out of form Zak is better than Ishant Sharma.

  • silly.point on November 26, 2013, 1:58 GMT

    Dear Nagraj, My congratulations on a well researched, thoughtful, eminently readable and ultimately inspiring story. Recently, more and more such stories are being published in ESPNCricinfo (e.g. the one about Shami Ahmed's rise) which go beyond Statsguru and talking heads. With these, in my humble opinion, ESPNCricinfo is finally taking on the mantle of serious journalism, with an effort to provide the stories behind the stories. We all appreciate the match report, the opinions, the stats and the results, but sometimes when we get a glimpse at the process that produces the results, we begin to get an inkling at what professionalism and sacrifice is all about. Dev

  • on November 26, 2013, 1:17 GMT

    i may sound pragmatic and pessimistic here. But the truth is that with just two tests with S.A., India may be in for a good hiding. Boy I loathe to think without experienced batsmen like Sewag, SRT and Gambir the untested Indian front line batsmen with the exception of Kohli may struggle against genuine quickies like Steyn, and Philander. It would have been wonderful if SRT is taken to SA just for the final hurrah. Now that he has officially retired this is not possible or is it? I wish and pray miracles do happen and BCCI coax SRT to go for one last hurrah. He retired alright, but from playing home matches. His mother's wish is granted to see her son play. Now for the sake of Indian cricket, why not

  • on November 26, 2013, 1:02 GMT

    Is it possible for anyone to persuade and motivate Veeru, to go through the same. If he does it, it will be great for Veeru & for the Indian Team. Then, he won't be a 'gone case' as I had been repeatedly saying.

  • CricketChat on November 26, 2013, 0:12 GMT

    Zaheer's selection is a pure gamble. I fear he can break down any moment on the SA. I feel this is a farewell tour of sorts for him for all the services he has given to India in the past which he deserves. In a sense SA tour is a better option with fast and bouncy pitches than say the WI tour in India. All said, I will be more than happy if ZK succeeds in SA.

  • Naresh28 on November 25, 2013, 22:49 GMT

    This could spur other pace bowlers to not neglect fitness and BCCI should be commended for this. Zaks primary role should be as a mentor t the other young players. When India rose to number1 in tests , Zaks was there.

  • ksriniasu on November 25, 2013, 21:02 GMT

    Wow... more than 13 years of international cricket, access to elite physical trainers and physio therapists, part of the richest cricket board to have ever existed, and it is now that Zaheer finally realizes the need for fitness that is required for any elite sport. It startled me that this guy could not do dead lift when he started training. That is the most basic of training regimens!!! What was he doing all these years?

    I just hope this attitude is not pervasive among other Indian cricketers. It is easy to see now, why India never produces fast bowlers. They are just not fit

  • on November 25, 2013, 20:07 GMT

    It's all about the diet. You cannot get lean and athletic on an Indian diet. It's too carbohydrate-rich. You have to go down to basics. I did p90x for 3 months, and I didn't see any results until I fixed my diet. Now I can deadlift 200 lbs and I'm not really a big-built guy, just lean and muscular.

  • on November 25, 2013, 20:00 GMT

    looking forward for a fitter and meaner Zak.

  • BigINDFan on November 25, 2013, 19:52 GMT

    This is the second comeback for Zak and I admire his determination to work out his technical flaws the first time and the physical flaws the second time. It is high time NCA have a chat with Exeter and figure out changes to fitness routines for the Ind players - Ishant, Ashwin etc.

    Sehwag does not need fitness routines, he needs to get in form. Yuvi needs to play Eng county cricket to get better at playing fast and short pitched bowling. Raina needs it too. Gambhir needs luck and change in technique - that dab outside off needs to go and he should start cutting and pulling the ball more often. He can make into the Test side in the middle order and take Sachin's place.

  • on November 25, 2013, 19:51 GMT

    It is very important to have Zaheer in the XI. The best thinking fast bowler i have seen. Seeing him mentoring Umesh, Bhuvi, Shami, suddenly I ve got very good feeling about this tour. BCCI, cut the ODIs and make this 5 test series please!!!!

  • Top-Spinner on November 25, 2013, 19:50 GMT

    So, he is fitter but he is also 35 meaning he will last a series or so. Why would the selectors go for him instead of selecting and grooming a younger bowler? We also know that many players were dumped in the past because of age factor, why then Zaheer? People craving for Bhajji, Gambhir and Sehwag also should take note that we have enough talent to fill their spots. Those three got enough chances but did not grab with both hands. One stray 50 or 100 and a handful of wickets doesn't give them the right to walk into the team.

  • LegSpinBowlr on November 25, 2013, 19:36 GMT

    looking forward for a fitter and meaner Zak. Zak surely will get his bunny Smith on the tour. Indian batting is the main worry than the bowling with SRT out lets see how thy will fare against Steyn, philander and Morkel

  • ProdigyA on November 25, 2013, 19:02 GMT

    It's not the result that is important but the effort and the willingness to try. When u play for ur country this is least expected. Happy for Zak and wish him luck, he has earned a lot of respect. Hope sehwag, can learn from this. BCCI should give Ashwin a break and send him to France.

  • on November 25, 2013, 18:59 GMT

    Zak at 35 cannot be in the reserves - he has to be in the 11. The challenge for Dhoni now will be - which 4 of Ashwin, Jadeja, Bhuvi, Shami, Ishant & Yadav to pick in support of Zak.

  • Nampally on November 25, 2013, 18:56 GMT

    A revealing side of Zaheer's physical training camp & his determination to get match fit again. It is well known that Indian Cricketers of the past were lacking in fitness & strength to rise to be World class. Weight training & pre-season tune up should be part of every athlete & Cricketer's life. It was so heartening to see ZAK go thru' this routine & it will be best if he follows it rigidly to prolong his longevity as Pro. Cricketer. The most interesting features of ZAK's routine was maximizing the efficiency via distributing his weight on all weight carrying parts & strengthening them to withstand the strain. Zaheer was a great bowler & I am sure he will return to his glory days in the forthcoming SA Tour. His current lean & mean body with crew cut should be a lesson to long haired guys like Ishant Sharma. Ishant will benefit from focussing on his fitness & disciplined bowling with a clean crew cut. I wish ZAk best of luck in SA & hope he mentors the younger pace bowlers.

  • on November 25, 2013, 18:45 GMT

    As all v knw BCCI is one of d giant in world cricket.y don dey appoint some physical trainers such a exeters to get fitter indian team..look at Ashwin n many other guys in d team..hope zak will mentor bhuvi, shami n yadav..

  • anupkeni on November 25, 2013, 18:28 GMT

    The only reason why Zaheer is selected while Sehwag and Harbhajan are excluded is that Zaheer has played 88 tests while Sehwag and Harbhajan have already played over 100. So in the eyes of the BCCI both Sehwag and Harbhajan are spent forces. over the next 14 months India plays 13 test matches overseas. If Zaheer plays all those 13, he would have played 101 test matches by the end of next Australian summer. I cant see Zaheer playing beyond that.

  • on November 25, 2013, 17:53 GMT

    Gambhir will be missed. Let us seethes results than react.2 tests are less but with experience gone from batting. We lsee how India cope up

  • Raki99 on November 25, 2013, 17:44 GMT

    Yuvraj can haldy get a run in this series and the last one against Australia. He dropped a crucial catch at a wrong time in the last game. So i don't think the fitness regine has helped him any. Coming back to zaheer well he is 35 years of age and not getting any younger, I am still not sold on any indian fast bowlers. The Next 4 series are all away series and even if we win couple of series it would be fun to watch. we need fast bowlers who can bowl at 140kmp and swing it both sides. Test are won by bowlers because you have to take 20 wickets.

  • Waves239 on November 25, 2013, 17:34 GMT

    Always special to know one's journey to achieve something.

    A fit and in-form Zaheer is always trump card for any bowling attack. Now if he can serve the bowling department in next four overseas test series that's bonus. Besides his performance, his presence makes the young bowling department groom in right way. It's all down to action now and looking forward for the challenging and exciting overseas tours ahead.

    How long Zaheer can sustain fitness? How lethal will he be with the young bowling line-up? Will Zaheer force his way into ODI squad before 2015 world cup and end on high? Time will answer these ... !

  • mmmuthukumar on November 25, 2013, 17:08 GMT

    Sehwag and ashwin are next in queue to France

  • InsideHedge on November 25, 2013, 16:54 GMT

    If Zak inspires the younger bowlers with his fitness changes at the age of 35, maybe just maybe we'll start producing quick bowlers who bowl with the same hostility in the last session - between tea and close - as in the 1st session of a day's play.

    Indian cricket fans have all too often witnessed the opposition reduced to 6-7 wickets down for not many, only to see the tail wag furiously. We've been crying out for a quick bowler who comes on and blows away the tail.

  • CricketMaan on November 25, 2013, 16:51 GMT

    Can Zak hit 100 Tests? If he can India will more or less win a few overseas. How will Dhoni manage him? He will need to get a partnership with Bhuvi or Umesh that are very different from what Zak offers. The point is can he bowl the required 20 overs in a innings in the next 9 tests? It has been the only question, else he will do well for India.

  • InsideHedge on November 25, 2013, 16:51 GMT

    This is the 1st step in any cricketer's make up, they must be physically fit. It's a pity that in 2013, the penny has dropped for some of our guys, that includes the so called trainers at the expensive facilities all over India. They show up there for a lark, and then stuff their faces with unhealthy food. I don't need to wonder what's on offer at the IPL post match parties.

    Those of us who emigrated to the US as students have been banging on about fitness and tactics since the early 90s having witnessed the preparation of US sports athletes. The advice that Exeter dishes out is not ground breaking, it's just that our grass root coaching system and the players are backward.

    Finally, you can be the fittest guy in the world, but if your skills aren't there, you will not succeed. Otherwise, every team would be full of endurance athletes.

  • on November 25, 2013, 16:38 GMT

    Always fun to read these articles. Playing international sport has its demands. And when it is something like cricket which is so frequent and so many formats, it takes a toll - especially for a pace bowler. But off season work-ethic like this, with someone who understand fitness and training well, is always a challenge for a relatively older athlete. More a battle of mind, than the body. I remember Ganguly doing the same during his famous 2006-07 comeback, when he had asked the Bengal Ranji team fitness trainer to make him do things he had never done before -- sure enough, he was doing rounds of the Eden Gardens with a parachute tied to him. Hope it all bears the results ..

  • on November 25, 2013, 16:08 GMT

    lets see i have a lot of expectation especially from zaheer

  • Patrick_ on November 25, 2013, 15:54 GMT

    Good article. Hope Zaheer does well in South Africa. If both teams are in top form, it would be a fitting No 1 vs No 2 clash in test cricket.

  • Amit_4_Sachin on November 25, 2013, 15:52 GMT

    Ashwin needs to undergo the same treatment, he's grossly unfit.

  • fifth_innings on November 25, 2013, 15:48 GMT

    Once again a great article Mr.Nagraj. Zaheer and Yuvi do look more fitter and stronger. I would never forget the Lords test (Day 1) when zaheer walked out due to injury. More than his training and all, what is heartening to see is his desire to make a change and to stick with it. I cannot wait to see him in action against SA along with Shami, Bhuvi et al.

  • fifth_innings on November 25, 2013, 15:48 GMT

    Once again a great article Mr.Nagraj. Zaheer and Yuvi do look more fitter and stronger. I would never forget the Lords test (Day 1) when zaheer walked out due to injury. More than his training and all, what is heartening to see is his desire to make a change and to stick with it. I cannot wait to see him in action against SA along with Shami, Bhuvi et al.

  • Amit_4_Sachin on November 25, 2013, 15:52 GMT

    Ashwin needs to undergo the same treatment, he's grossly unfit.

  • Patrick_ on November 25, 2013, 15:54 GMT

    Good article. Hope Zaheer does well in South Africa. If both teams are in top form, it would be a fitting No 1 vs No 2 clash in test cricket.

  • on November 25, 2013, 16:08 GMT

    lets see i have a lot of expectation especially from zaheer

  • on November 25, 2013, 16:38 GMT

    Always fun to read these articles. Playing international sport has its demands. And when it is something like cricket which is so frequent and so many formats, it takes a toll - especially for a pace bowler. But off season work-ethic like this, with someone who understand fitness and training well, is always a challenge for a relatively older athlete. More a battle of mind, than the body. I remember Ganguly doing the same during his famous 2006-07 comeback, when he had asked the Bengal Ranji team fitness trainer to make him do things he had never done before -- sure enough, he was doing rounds of the Eden Gardens with a parachute tied to him. Hope it all bears the results ..

  • InsideHedge on November 25, 2013, 16:51 GMT

    This is the 1st step in any cricketer's make up, they must be physically fit. It's a pity that in 2013, the penny has dropped for some of our guys, that includes the so called trainers at the expensive facilities all over India. They show up there for a lark, and then stuff their faces with unhealthy food. I don't need to wonder what's on offer at the IPL post match parties.

    Those of us who emigrated to the US as students have been banging on about fitness and tactics since the early 90s having witnessed the preparation of US sports athletes. The advice that Exeter dishes out is not ground breaking, it's just that our grass root coaching system and the players are backward.

    Finally, you can be the fittest guy in the world, but if your skills aren't there, you will not succeed. Otherwise, every team would be full of endurance athletes.

  • CricketMaan on November 25, 2013, 16:51 GMT

    Can Zak hit 100 Tests? If he can India will more or less win a few overseas. How will Dhoni manage him? He will need to get a partnership with Bhuvi or Umesh that are very different from what Zak offers. The point is can he bowl the required 20 overs in a innings in the next 9 tests? It has been the only question, else he will do well for India.

  • InsideHedge on November 25, 2013, 16:54 GMT

    If Zak inspires the younger bowlers with his fitness changes at the age of 35, maybe just maybe we'll start producing quick bowlers who bowl with the same hostility in the last session - between tea and close - as in the 1st session of a day's play.

    Indian cricket fans have all too often witnessed the opposition reduced to 6-7 wickets down for not many, only to see the tail wag furiously. We've been crying out for a quick bowler who comes on and blows away the tail.

  • mmmuthukumar on November 25, 2013, 17:08 GMT

    Sehwag and ashwin are next in queue to France

  • Waves239 on November 25, 2013, 17:34 GMT

    Always special to know one's journey to achieve something.

    A fit and in-form Zaheer is always trump card for any bowling attack. Now if he can serve the bowling department in next four overseas test series that's bonus. Besides his performance, his presence makes the young bowling department groom in right way. It's all down to action now and looking forward for the challenging and exciting overseas tours ahead.

    How long Zaheer can sustain fitness? How lethal will he be with the young bowling line-up? Will Zaheer force his way into ODI squad before 2015 world cup and end on high? Time will answer these ... !